Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ann Halsted House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Ann Halsted House (1884) Adler & Sullivan, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the early part of 1883 Ann Halsted visited the architectural offices of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, two architects who had recently formed a 2/3 to 1/3 working partnership. Adler had been practicing as an architect longer than his younger partner and the firm's drawings still bore the title block D. Adler & Co. As for Mrs. Halsted, her husband had died a year earlier and she was ready to build a new house for herself and the five children she now had to raise on her own.

  [Ann Halsted House, 440 W. Belden Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Henry S. Halsted was a sailor at heart. He'd learned his trade in his native England  before landing on the shores of Lake Michigan and settling in Chicago in the 1850s. He eventually accumulated a small fleet of schooners that sailed the Great Lakes, and at the time of his death in 1882 owned more vessels than any other person in the city. He was just 56-years-old when he succumbed to pneumonia and left his widow Ann with an estate valued at $150,000 - and those five kids to take care of. Named sole executrix, Ann inherited around $6.6 million in today's dollars, and set to work running Henry's business, which she took very seriously. At the time she visited Adler and Sullivan Ann Halsted was embroiled in a law suit claiming that the State of Illinois had charged too much tax on two of her vessels. A state statute declared that commercial vessels should be taxed in the district in which they were berthed or enrolled. A Cook County statute declared that such a vessel should be taxed in the district in which the owner resided, which would result in a lower tax rate for Mrs. Halsted. Unfortunately for Ann the court found that the county could not supersede the state, so she had to pay-up.

  [Ann Halsted House, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

She had better luck with her plans to build a new house on a large lot near Lincoln Park just steps from the city's northern boundary at Fullerton Avenue. She and Henry had built a home a little further south of the new location right after the fire in 1871, and, ever the enterprising business person, after the move north, she had that single family home torn down and replaced it with four income producing townhouses - also designed by Adler & Sullivan. As for the new home, for anyone familiar with the later more renowned and expressive work of Louis Sullivan, the Halsted house seems remarkably restrained and very un-Sullivanesque. But this was early on in the Adler & Sullivan partnership and was very typical of the type of work the firm was doing at the time. The house wasn't your typical hyperkinetic Queen Anne styled single family home which was so popular in the 1880s. The designer of this 2-1/2 story brick house on Belden Avenue was searching for a new vocabulary, expressed in a simpler geometric massing and with restraint in the amount of exterior detailing. And the ancient Greeks would have loved the absolute symmetry of that street fronting face.

  [Ann Halsted House, Lincoln Park, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Halsted family moved into $15,000 home in the spring of 1884. Ann raised her children there, and died there in 1931. At that time, with the country in economic collapse, large, old, and out-of-date single family homes were often divvied-up and converted into multi-unit apartment buildings or rooming houses. The Halsted house escaped that era of conversion, as well as in the 1950s when another wave of re-purposing or demolition hit the market, and then the 1970s, 80s, 90s and into the 21st century. So that today the Ann Halsted house remains a single family home, one of the most intact and well preserved of Adler & Sullivan's residential commissions, and the only free-standing home from the partnership still standing.

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